YouTube Music is here — and it’s packing the biggest music library in the world.
YouTube is one of the most-viewed websites on the planet, and by far the most popular video platform today, so it’s no surprise that millions upon millions of users turn to it every day for music. It’s the default platform for music videos — especially viral music videos like This is America and Girls Like You — and it’s also a place to find just about any song, remix, mashup, or fan cover you could ever want. Whether you’re looking for lyrics to a song before karaoke night, music to sleep to, or a new remix to play at your next party, YouTube has what you’re looking for.
Now, YouTube is ready to make another run at a music app built upon their video empire with YouTube Music. It’s a music app with a truly unique interface, an unparalleled selection, and more than a few kinks to work out, but YouTube Music is here to stay and here to compete.
The latest YouTube Music news
January 30, 2019 — YouTube Music is now available on Sonos speakers
Starting today, you’ll be able to stream YouTube Music on your Sonos speakers. The partnership will let you stream playlists, albums, and access YouTube Music’s entire catalog of songs provided you subscribe to YouTube Premium or Music.
November 27, 2018 — YouTube Music and YouTube Premium get discounted student plans
Whether it be Spotify, Apple Music, Hulu, or something else, most streaming services these days offer some sort of discounted pricing for students. YouTube Music and YouTube Premium previously didn’t offer anything along these lines, but that’s changing today.
Student plans for YouTube’s two services come with all of the same features but at around half the cost. A student subscription to YouTube Music is $4.99/month instead of the usual $9.99/month whereas YouTube Premium is lowered to $6.99/month compared to $11.99/month.
As part of a special promotion to celebrate the new plans, students that sign up by January 31, 2019 can get YouTube Premium for even cheaper at just $5.99/month.
September 21, 2018 — Audio quality controls roll out to Android and iOS apps
YouTube Music has been waiting on a number of features, and none more impatiently as audio quality controls. YouTube Music has an amazing selection, but until now it’s been stuck at 128kbps. Today, YouTube Music has pushed out audio quality controls to both the Android and iOS apps, seemingly as a server-side update as they appeared without an app update in the YouTube Music app on my Galaxy S9+. There are audio quality settings in three places:
- General: Audio quality on mobile network — Low, Normal, High, Always High
- General: Audio quality on Wi-Fi — Low, Normal, High, Always High
- Downloads: Audio quality — Low, Normal, High
"If you stream at Normal quality, you are getting 128kbps AAC as your bitrate. For premium subscribers, we offer High quality which is 256kbps AAC. If you have flaky network connectivity or want to save data, you can switch to low quality which is 48kbps HE-AAC. 256kbps AAC is equivalent in audio quality to the 320kbps CBR mp3 that we had for GPM, but it uses less data. Right now we don’t have any plans for audio quality higher than 256kbps. Our deals would require us to charge more to stream FLAC, so at this point we are focused on improving performance rather than supporting lossless streaming." — YouTube Music Product Manager Brandon Bilinski
September 20, 2018 — YouTube Music Product Team holding Q&A on September 21st
YouTube Music pledged to bi-weekly updates back at the beginning of August and more transparency, but 6 weeks out and very little seems to have changed. There are still tons of questions swirling around the revamped music service, and to help assuage concerns the YouTube Music Product Team is holding a Q&A session Friday morning at 9:30AM PT.
You can submit your questions for the team right now on the event thread of the official YouTube Music Help forum. There have already been a flurry of questions posted, especially around the migration of Google Play Music to YouTube, Android Auto support and library sort options, which are two features that the YouTube Music team said were coming "in the next few months" back in July.
August 29, 2018 — YouTube Music Premium expands to 4 more countries
As the YouTube Music Premium rollout continues, it’s now been confirmed that the service is available in four additional countries. Specifically, Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands!
Similar to other parts of Europe where YouTube Music Premium is available, the service costs €9.99/month and 99 kroner/month in Denmark.
August 1, 2018 — YouTube Music plans bi-weekly update schedule, reconfirms some coming features
YouTube Music has a lot of bugs to fix and features to add before it can begin to truly compete with Spotify or begin migrating Google Play Music subscribers over, and while those updates will take time, we at least have something of a timetable for when YouTube Music will be receiving updates.
YouTube Music product manager Elias Roman tells Engaget that the service plans to push out updates for the service every two weeks. Among the changes Roman confirmed:
- An album sorting option beyond recently added
- A drop-down menu option to filter out musicians you follow on YouTube Music from the main YouTube Subscriptions feed
- Low/medium/high audio quality settings for streaming and downloads (coming in a few weeks)
Roman was also quoted as saying that "We are not focused on exclusives. We don’t believe exclusives are good for the industry or good for consumers." This makes sense for YouTube Music given that everything available on YouTube Music is available on the main YouTube app to both paid and free users, which would make exclusives available to everyone.
July 17, 2018 — Google promises Android Auto support, better sound quality, SD card support, and more with future updates
There are plenty of areas in which Google can improve YouTube Music, and thanks to the team behind the app, we now have a short list of features to expect in future updates.
Over on the YouTube Music Help forum on Google Support, the YouTube Music team says that the following features will be available in no particular order over the coming months:
- Better audio quality, and ability to select the quality for downloading and streaming
- Sonos support
- Android Auto support
- SD card support for Android
- More obvious shuffle vs. play-in-order options for playlists
It’s unclear when exactly all of this will be available, but the option to save downloaded songs to an SD card is rolling out now.
June 18, 2018 — YouTube Music is coming to 12 new countries and becoming available to all inside the original "Early Access" countries
YouTube has opened up YouTube Music to 12 new countries , as well as ending its awkward and often confusing "Early Access" period and making the service available to everyone in its original five countries.
This brings the number of countries YouTube Music serves up to 17 — Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Mexico, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States — and with the new YouTube Music also comes the new YouTube Premium pricing system.
May 23, 2018 — Your locally owned songs from Google Play Music will transfer over to YouTube Music… eventually
Google wants all of its Play Music subscribers to migrate over to YouTube Music at some point in 2019, and to help make that process as seamless as possible, the company’s confirmed that some of Play Music’s best features will be coming to the new YouTube Music — the biggest of which is a music locker for storing copies of song you locally own.
This news was recently confirmed by Google to The Verge, with the Head of YouTube Music saying on Twitter that "Your collection, playlists and preferences from Google Play Music will be preserved at migrated to YouTube music for a soft landing."
In addition to having a place to store music you already own, YouTube Music will eventually allow you to buy new songs that you can add to your collection.
May 22, 2018 — The new YouTube Music is officially here!
Just like we expected, YouTube Music’s new app and desktop site officially started rolling out on May 22. Google says the new look is currently in "early access" and is gradually becoming available for folks in the U.S., Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and South Korea.
To access YouTube Music, you can download the app from the Play Store or hit up the desktop site at music.youtube.com. If you’re not seeing the changes quite yet, be sure to check back frequently to know when you’ve been graced with Google’s good wishes.
All the big details
The service starts at $9.99/month — but no one should pay that
There’s no real sugar-coating it: using YouTube Music as a free user on Android is bad. There are ads every three to six songs, and you can’t leave the Now Playing screen, so it hogs your screen and your battery. YouTube Music is worlds better when you unlock its paid features. YouTube Premium is absolutely worth paying for.
YouTube Music Premium, however, is not.
Where is YouTube Music Premium available?
If you’re still interested in checking out YouTubeMusic Premium, the service is currently available in the following countries:
- New Zealand
- United Kingdom
- United States
What’s happening to Google Play Music? Where’s my likes and playlists?
Google wants all of its Play Music subscribers to migrate over to YouTube Music at some point in 2019. That means YouTube Music will be adding most of Google Play Music’s tentpole features — the biggest of which is Google Play Music’s free 50,000 song music locker.
That said, Google Play Music and YouTube Music’s libraries and catalogs at the moment are completely disconnected and there’s quite a bit that has to happen before that can change. The library migration is a long ways off, but in the meantime, Play Music users get two music apps to play with instead of one. So which one should you use?
A mixtape full of promise
YouTube Music is built on a gold mine. YouTube is not only the most used video platform in the world, it might be the biggest catalog of professional, semi-professional, and amateur music available in the world. This isn’t the first time Google has tried to capitalize on this, but this time is different. YouTube’s music team has finally gotten its act together and made us all a mixtape full of promises.
But can it follow through on them?
YouTube Music is an adjustment from traditional music services — especially because it is based around video rather than audio — but thanks to the Google’s search prowess and downright uncanny predictions and recommendations, getting used to Google’s newest music service should be as painless as possible. And since it’s built around years of your YouTube history, YouTube Music already knows you better than you think.
Networks fail. Your plane says it’s going to have Wi-Fi, but nope. You get stuck in the car with your parents in the middle of nowhere, and you’re outside cell range, and the radio stations are nothing but static and muffled AM country. Having music to listen to when you offline is important, and when the music service you’re using is based around video — which eats data like nobody’s business — how you save your music for offline playback is even more important.
What is it missing?
YouTube Music is a brand-new service — albeit one built on an old app of the same name — and like most things that are shiny, new, and different, there are a lot of bugs to be worked out. There are a lot features that are still missing — from basic audio quality settings to more complicated endeavours like gapless playback and library management — and we’ve got a handy list of what’s missing and when we could maybe see some of it.
On that note — YouTube Music’s library does not include every video on YouTube, nor does it include every song and album on Google Play Music right now.
Making the most of things
YouTube Music is "Early Access" right now, which means the service is essentially a beta and it is definitely buggy. While time and updates will fix some of those bugs, there are some things you can do to make the most of its current state.
Also, even if you’ve never used YouTube Music before, it has years and years of your YouTube history to work off of. That means that YouTube Music could already have a good idea what you like, or it could have things completely wrong because you’ve mostly used YouTube to pull up music when your nieces are over or you’re hosting a party for your country-obsessed friends. Here’s how to help YouTube help you with better suggestions.
Can it dethrone Spotify?
Spotify has spent the last decade building up a loyal user base, building algorithms that few companies can even begin to touch, and building up a reputation as the best brand in streaming music. YouTube, however, is one of the most used sites on the internet, period, a selection you can’t find anywhere else — a selection that will be absolutely unbeatable in the future — and Google is bringing its best algorithmic game with YouTube Music.
It’s still early days, but YouTube Music will be enough to dethrone Spotify soon?
Updated August 2018: Added a new section for where YouTube Premium is available.
January 30, 2019 at 09:38AM